I'm wanting to increase my academic network, particularly people who know me and my research. This is probably the goal of all researchers. Specifically I'm looking for ideas to do so through email.

I realize that face-to-face interactions are probably the best way to meet and network with other researchers. But conferences and symposiums are few and far between. I also realize that there are other ways, such as twitter, blogs, etc., but I've found for my field the academics tend to be on the conservative side on technology and email is the norm for communication.

A common technique is to email others when you publish, but I've found that receiving cold emails or emails on research not directly to my own to be like receiving academic spam. There must be simple ways to make introductions through email and connect on the research front without being intrusive.


2 Answers 2


First, I would suggest recognizing that a network is not a goal, but instead both

  1. a means to achieving your scientific goals and
  2. hopefully including a subset who you just plain enjoy interacting with

The second part can only really emerge organically, so let's focus on the first part, which is where the sort of "cold call" emails you are talking about come in. I think that you have correctly identified that "cold calls" are pretty much always ineffectual, because most people worth talking to already have an input buffer overflowing with worthless and impersonal cold calls.

If you approach the interaction from the point of view of "how can I get this person to notice me" then you're pretty much consigning yourself to the same bin. Instead, you need to have some context in which you have a legitimate reason for contacting the person that is not to be noticed. The networking and knowledge is then a natural and beneficial side effect, rather than the purpose of the interaction.

Some examples of non-in-person contexts in which such interactions commonly occur:

  • Volunteering in the organization of a workshop, conference, or other academic or educational event. Even for students, there are useful roles to play, which will also end up with you encountering a bunch of researchers.
  • Hosting an invited speaker: "If the mountain won't come to Muhammad then Muhammad must go to the mountain."
  • Actually doing research that interacts with the other researcher's work, and either asking for their advice, or contacting them to let them know you've built off their work in a way you think they may find interesting.

I'm sure I've just scratched the surface, and there are lots of other things that can help build your network.

Finally, any of these can further be mixed with getting an introduction from a mutual acquaintance, which can help get you past the "crap-filter." If you do this, however, be aware that you are putting not just your own reputation but that of your acquaintance on the line as well.

  • Right on. Great ideas.
    – che_kid
    Jun 18, 2015 at 16:49

Great answer from @jakebeal. An additional idea: pick some departments within a reasonable radius of where you live, and write to someone in a department you find intriguing, to say you are planning a trip to that city, and would it be convenient for you to visit the department and meet some people interested in . Say that you would be happy to give a talk about during your stay. Attach the abstract.

Make sure you've got a pocket full of cards to hand out when you go. Leave plenty of time to go around to people's offices, labs and the coffee room, for people to tell you about what they're doing.

If possible, preview the research going on at that department that has the most affinity to your interests before you go.

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